The media loves bad news. Bad news is what gets people watching, and in turn influences advertising prices. The latest political scandal. An earthquake killing thousands of people. CNN making us believe that the US is on the verge of nuking Iran and Syria. Global warming, over-population, plane crashes…..are you depressed yet?
If you go to any news site whatsoever, you would be struggling to find something remotely cheerful and uplifting.
How I Pressed Pause on Bad News
When I was diagnosed with clinical depression 13 years ago, the psychiatrist prescribed the pills, and then told me other ways to control the black cloud. The central message was “isolate yourself totally from anything guaranteed to lower your mood – and surround yourself instead with funny happy uplifting things”.
Interestingly, a big part of this was the media — TV, Internet, print media, music. Over the years, I have tweaked and refined what I watch, read, and listen to, in order to have some measure of control over how I feel. You can do this too — and improve your mood in the process.
I am not perfect — I argue politics on Facebook all the time. But I try to restrain myself as much as I can. It’s a slow learning process, but you need to start now. There’s too much negativity in the world, and we can all do with being nice to one another.
Get Your RSS News Feeds in Order
OK, let’s get right to it. Remove CNN from your news feeds right away. CNN may as well call itself the Doom & Gloom Network (they also seriously get their facts wrong, as you can see above!). Also get rid of Fox News, the BBC, CBS, NBC, and all the other alphabet news shows. These are the networks that focus first and foremost on the bad and negative stuff. And you want to get as far away from that as possible.
Also, no Justin Bieber, One Direction, or Kim Kardashian. Come on, if you are going to do this, let’s do it right.
In the end, leave yourself with subjects relating to your interests. That could be technology, the Internet, stamp collecting, or rocket science. Nice happy things. Oh, and don’t forget your daily supply of cat pictures.
Use Google News to Find The Best Sources
Once you have purged the feeds of anything to do with Armageddon and Kim Kardashian’s butt breaking the Internet, it’s time to find some alternate stuff to read. The nice thing about Google News is that you are able to totally customize what you read. You can block all the bad and boring stuff, and instead have nice uplifting stuff about chickens trying to cross the road (there’s a joke in there somewhere).
Top right of Google News is the “personalise” link. Hit that to begin removing all signs of nastiness from your life. Move the sliders to the left to get less of that subject, and to the right for more.
To get rid of a section completely, you must hit the trash button to the left and remove the category.
Now start adding the subjects you want to see more of. As you type, Google will auto-suggest stuff to you.
Now, click the two right-facing arrows at the top of the page to collapse the right-hand menus.
Google doesn’t allow you to remove “Top Stories” from the top of the page, so since it’s all about death and shark attacks today, I am going to use this really cool lightweight Chrome extension, which kills Top Stories. Firefox users have the option of user scripts, which someone has suggested on this page. I haven’t tried them though.
And magic, the Google News page is free of bad news. Just remember to stay logged into your Google account though, otherwise you will lose the customizations, and end up on the default news page again.
The system is not perfect though. Since everything relies on algorithms, a bad story might occasionally slip through. If you look at the screenshot above, my Germany section has a story about violence against asylum seekers. But on the whole, it works quite well.
Watch Comedy & Satirical News
A big part of detoxing your bad news habit is to surround yourself with the exact opposite — funny news and satire. Thankfully you have that in abundance online.
The most well-known of them all is of course The Daily Show, with full episodes on its website (non-US viewers will need a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to view them), and even though Jon Stewart is leaving, hopes are high that his replacement, Trevor Noah, will be as good.
Then there’s The Onion, which has its very own satirical news show.
I also highly recommend “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”. He takes news stories and then gives you his highly amusing take on it. Although he touches on stuff like torture, and NSA spying, he is so funny that you honestly won’t care. I swear you will be ROFL’ing all day long.
Visit Positive Websites
Not every news website focuses on the evil, and the dastardly characters that inhabit this world. Back in 2009, we looked at 5 positive news websites, and now there are a few more worth looking at.
First, there’s The Optimist, which is a good site, but annoyed me a bit because you can’t view any of the site unless you sign up for a free account. Then there’s Daily Good, which I quite liked. The Huffington Post has its own Good News channel, or check out the Good News Network.
But the one I really liked was Positive News. As well as really great stories, they even do media training to try and make journalists think about more positive aspects of reporting. That is just fantastic.
Filter out the Negative People on Facebook & Twitter
Facebook and Twitter are great for keeping in touch with people, and sharing links. Most people are probably very nice (otherwise why would you follow them?), and there is the obvious easy way if anyone gets too negative, or talks too much about the latest plane crash — you unfollow them, and if necessary, block them. Easy. You can also make lists of the people you’re following, and look at each list individually.
But what if you just want to make sure that certain types of stories don’t show up on your Facebook timeline or your Twitter stream? You know, the wars, the plagues, the pestilences, and Mel Gibson.
Facebook has a very easy way of filtering out posts. If you see something you don’t want to see anymore, drop down the arrow at the top right-hand side and you get options.
You can remove that post from your timeline (and see fewer similar ones). You can unfollow the person who posted it, and you can hide everything from the organization(s) mentioned in the post. In this case, the American Humanist Association, and NPR.
Twitter is more difficult because there is no in-built filtering system in place. Looking at third-party options, one possibility is Filtrr, which enables you to make a blacklist and a whitelist of the keywords you want to see or not see.
The only downside is that you need to use Twitter on the Filtrr page, which is not exactly going to win any awards anytime soon for graphic design (in my opinion, at least).
Anything filtered out will show up as “filtrr’d” (see above). At the beginning, the app is going to get everything spectacularly wrong, as it needs to learn. So if a tweet has been wrongly filtered, tell it and it should hopefully remember.
You Will Get There Too
As I said at the beginning, moving away from the negative news is a gradual process. The media is constantly trying to bombard us with the sensationalist depressing headlines, whether it’s by TV, radio, the Internet, or print media. Learning how to avoid these headlines, and adopting habits that will see you automatically steer towards the optimistic news won’t take a day. It won’t take a week. But you’ll get there — and you’ll be all the better for it.
Let us know in the comments if you are fed up with the constant barrage of negative news, and if you would like your daily dose of daily goodness. Make love, not war.
Image Credits: mass media via Shutterstock